(REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)Zarifa Badoos Daddo (C), 77, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Erbil, Iraq. Zarifa was reunited with her family on Sunday after Iraqi forces drove Islamic State from the town of Qaraqosh, southeast of Mosul.
Iraqi Christians have spoken about the suffering that they experienced while living under the rule of the Islamic State for over two years.
Around 120,000 Christians fled when ISIS took over the Nineveh Plain in Northern Iraq in 2014. Those who were not able to leave are now able to tell their stories after the Iraqi forces have retaken some of the villages from the terror group.
Ismail Matti and his mother Jandar Nasi were left behind by their relatives when ISIS seized their hometown of Bartalla, east of Mosul. They tried to escape using taxis but they got caught by the jihadists and ended up in prison.
“There were Shiite people crammed in a cell next to ours — they took one, shot him in the head and dragged his body in front of us. They told my mother the same thing would happen to me if we refused to convert. So we converted,” Matti told AFP.
They were eventually released and sent to the village of Shurikhan. Matti said that their neighbors were all ISIS members who would come to check up on them if they are adhering to Sharia law.
“If they found that I hadn’t been to the mosque to pray, I sometimes got lashes,” he said.
They encountered the same cruelty from the terror group when they were transferred to a temporary home in Bazwaya, east of Mosul. They are now living safely in a church-run shelter in Arbil.
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In Qaraqosh, 77-year-old Zarifa Bakoos Daddo had to stay with her sick 90-year-old husband when ISIS occupied the Christian town. Her husband eventually died and she had to stay in the house of her elderly friend Badriya.
Daddo said that the older jihadists treated them well but the younger ones were cruel. She recounted the time when one young militant came and forced them to convert to Islam.
“He told me to spit on a picture of the Virgin Mary and a crucifix. I refused but he made me. The whole time I was telling God in my heart that I did not mean any of this,” she narrated.
Daddo told Reuters last month that the militants did not hurt her physically but she was robbed of her possessions. She and her friend were found by Iraqi security forces days after they recaptured Qaraqosh.
Daddo is now living with her family in Arbil. Despite the cruelties she suffered at the hands of the militants, she is praying that they will one day open up their hearts to God.